Be Baldwin-Fuller is quite incredible.
Not only is Be (or Belinda in more formal circles) a highly accomplished climber, having ranked as one of the top 10 UK Women in bouldering, but Be also coached the GB Paraclimbing team to its greatest medal haul to date. And it is in coaching where Be truly shines; understanding what it takes technically, physically and mentally to develop her clients to reach their potential and (most importantly) keeping things fun too.
Some may recognise Be from previous Women's Climbing Symposium events because we've been lucky enough to have her on our coaching team many many times, but others may recognise Be from a series of videos she made with YouTuber Hannah Morris on efficient movement using Be's Pyramid Theory ...which, let's be honest, is basically free coaching from the comfort of your couch and well worth taking notes (take a look here).
We wanted to check-in with Be because, quite frankly, we can all learn a lot from her.
Hi Be! You've been involved in WCS now for quite some time, how and when did you first get involved and what was it about WCS that caught your eye and kept you coming back year on year?
It was a lovely surprise when I got an email from Shauna out of the blue asking me to coach at WCS15. In my first year I ran a movement workshop with the legend herself Emma Twyford. Needless to say it was a pretty amazing day and I just loved the atmosphere with 100's of psyched women enjoying what we love the most! I took 2019 off whilst setting up my climbing wall, but bar that and the Covid break I have enjoyed coaching at every event since 2015.
Climbing is clearly such a huge part of your life, and has been since you were 16 years old, but how has this evolved for you? In what ways, if any, has your passion for climbing changed since you first began at 16?
As for so many of us climbing has shaped my life and taken me on such an amazing journey.
When I was 16 I loved it so much I cleaned the toilets at my local wall to get free climbing and for the chance to be involved in the community before I was old enough to instruct. As soon as I was old enough I became an instructor and have been teaching climbing ever since (17 years now - gosh!).
I fell into competing quite early on in my climbing life - somehow coming 10th in the 2010 British Bouldering Championships - I say somehow because I am not a confident competitor and was beyond nervous! Looking back, this day was quite a pivotal time in my career where I decided to focus on my degree and coaching rather than moving to Sheffield to climb more and compete. A decision that I am now so glad I made as I went on to complete my degree, travel New Zealand, set up my coaching company, become a GB Paraclimbing coach (where I met my now wife) and open my own climbing wall - Volume 1 Climbing.
Nearly three years after setting up my bouldering centre, I have recently decided to make a big U-turn and go back to travelling the world and running my coaching business. This was something I missed more than I could have imagined. It was a big dream of mine to create a wall for my local community like the one that changed my life, and I am so proud to have achieved this, but I had not anticipated how trapped in one area this would make me feel. With freedom and adventure at the heart of my life values, I am now thriving again running Be Climbing (@be_climbing) and loving actually climbing for myself again.
Photos: Be competing at the 2019 BBC's / Be running her business from her van / Be and friend Nat Tanzer running a climbing yoga retreat
You've climbed, travelled, and ran a business from the comfort of your van, so what's your favourite track and snack for heading to the crag?
Beyoncé’s live Homecoming album is always a winner on the drive to the crag! I also have a ‘Feel Good’ playlist with all my favourite high energy songs that I train to if I need a boost. When it comes to snacks, I love a hard boiled egg and they come in their own little packaging which is a bonus, but to be fair I’ll eat what ever I can get my hands on when I’m hungry!
You're known to be a passionate advocate for inclusivity and accessibility within climbing, what first sparked this for you and how has this changed the way you work within the climbing world?
I have always passionately believed that everyone is equal and if we celebrate individuals abilities and make the world accessible for all, then anything is possible for anyone. However, my life experiences and amazing people I have met in the last 5 years have completely changed the way I see and work within the climbing world. Earlier in my career I would have said that I had not seen any discrimination in the climbing community but I can now see that this was more my lack of awareness than it not being present.
Since working with the GB Paraclimbing team, meeting my wife and becoming part of the LGBTQ+ community, I have had the privilege of seeing the world even more intricately from a minorities perspective. I have experienced people asking me questions about my wife whilst ignoring her sat in her wheelchair next to me with the assumption she is unable to make her own decisions or talk for herself - if only they could perceive what an incredibly able badass she is! As a couple we get a lot of double takes when we walk / roll hand in hand through public places. I have also had comments like "yeah, but you’re just a GB paraclimbing coach” and there is a clear discrepancy and inconsistency between paraclimbing competitions and able bodied comps.
I am privileged enough to have never consciously felt effected by being a minority female in the climbing world. Growing up as a ‘tom boy’ with mostly male friends - it has only ever been a fun game to try and burn off the boys for me. However, more recently I have experienced some of my female friends become uncomfortable to the point of us having to leave a boulder when a group of men have taken over and (I am sure unknowingly) behaved inappropriately towards us.
Despite the above, I think the most significant life event that changed the way I work in the climbing world was the suicide of my brothers girlfriend, Katie. Her death affected us all beyond belief and the only way I could process it, do something worthy of her brilliance and support her family and my brother was to set up a charity in her honour. Climbing Out of Depression (@climbingoutofdepression) was born back in 2017 and after a long arduous process we now have an amazing board of trustees who are volunteering to get the charity up and running. Our hope is to make climbing more accessible to those who may not have the confidence or opportunity to find it alone. We will do this by offering up to 4 free 1:1 coaching sessions with a mental heath first aid trained instructor and then support their journey and integration into the wonderful climbing community through the social group, Climb Free (@_climbfree).
Photos: Be and the GB Paraclimbing Team / Be climbing her nemesis Jungle VIP (f8a) in Dartmoor.
How do you think we as a wider climbing community can help to make climbing more inclusive and accessible to all?
From my experience, which is mostly through the amazing people I am lucky enough to know intimately, I believe the climbing community could be even better if we all considered things like:
Don’t assume disabled people are less able than the rest of us - being over apologetic and acting with sympathy can be patronising. Most people just want to be treated with respect and just like everyone else.
It could be helpful for climbing walls to consider the following - if someone has asked for help to access any part of their facility then you are not being as inclusive as you could be.
Don’t assume that girls are weak or less able than men! This applies to everyone - we all need to believe in ourselves and not shy away from reaching our potential.
We have all experienced guys jumping straight on climbs that we have just completed, in the assumption that it must be easy. We can be proud that we cruised it and inspired them to try! I am by no means suggesting all men think women are weak, and most are respectful friends and allies, but again awareness is key.
Women have the potential to overtake men in climbing more than any other sport. It is a vertical dance that involves just as much brains and mobility as it does strength and power.
We could all be more aware of how our presence and behaviour could make others around us feel.
We need to have a broader range of people in our climbing marketing and media - what you can’t see you can’t be. We need to show the world that climbing is for everyone not just the small range of affluent, white, men that are predominantly seen in climbing marketing and media.
Awareness is key and we can all do more for inclusivity and accessibility. The climbing community is going in the right direction - and an inclusive one compared to many others - but there is still a long way to go.
From within the climbing community, past or present, friend, family or famous... who most inspires you and why?
I am very lucky that the two people who inspire me the most are the two climbers I get to train with and climb with the most: Lucy Garlick and Hannah Baldwin-Fuller. Lucy is one of the greatest talents coming through GB climbing and the reason for this is pure and simple - her love for climbing. She just adores everything about it - bouldering, lead, training, projecting, failing, training, comps - she genuinely loves it all and works so hard for it! This inspires me so much because what other reason is there to do anything… love really is all you need! And as for Hannah, this is corny as hell, but there is genuinely no one who inspires me more than my amazing wife. She is incredibly committed to her goals and endures so much with her illness and disability whilst training for them! She also has one of the best head games in the industry and will never let go!! This is my greatest weakness so I learn so much from her.
And lastly... we have to ask... having climbed for 17 years, which has been your favourite climb to date and why?
I have had some epic days out with friends and clients to stunning locations over my career and it is often the days that just feel like a big adventure that I enjoy the most. Multi-pitching in Thailand with my wife, friend and brother were some of the most wonderful days climbing I have ever had.
My favourite climb to date, however, must be El Desafio (8a) at Pena Roja in Spain, as it was a mega psychological milestone for me to crack 8a.
Photos: Be seconds after sending El Desafio / Be multi-pitch climbing in Thailand
Thank you so much for your time Be!
Follow Be on Instagram for reels featuring climbing tips and techniques, and for those interested in coaching with Be, please check out her website: beclimbing.co.uk. Be Climbing aims to help individuals get the most out of the wonderful world of climbing. Whether it may be reaching their physical, mental and technical potential or purely enjoying a day out on the the rock with family and friends.
And, as promised, here are the videos of Be coaching YouTuber Hannah Morris on efficient movement using Be's Pyramid Theory: